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IWD: Project alert, CSOs call for end to SGBV against women with launch of SIP

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Experts, stakeholders, government representatives, religious leaders as well as a number of Civil Service Organisations (CSOs) have called for more light to be shed and better action taken against sexual and gender based violence, especially against women living with disabilities who are most vulnerable to abuse.

At a 2-day pre-commencement sensitization workshop to boost capacity building for CSOs, the Spotlight Initiative Project (SIP) to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls was launched in Lagos by Project Alert in partnership with the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU). SIP is a multi-year initiative by the UN (UNWomen, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP) and EU, focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls globally and will give prominence to prevention, protection and provision of services to ensure women’s empowerment. SIP though responding to all forms of violence against women and girls, will focus on domestic violence, sexual and gender based violence as well as harmful traditional practices.

According to the founder and director, Project Alert, Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, SIP in Nigeria would support a country where all women and girls, particularly the most vulnerable especially women living with disabilities, live a life free from violence and harmful practices. She went to add that the pillars of the project would be promoting laws and policies to prevent and address violence, strengthening national government institutions, prevention, provision of high quality essential services for survivors, improving the quality and accuracy of data on SGBV and finally, promoting a strong and empowered civil society and women’s movement.

The project title for the intervention is ‘Capacity Building for Girls and Women CSOs/Rights Groups on Referral services for Victims of SGBV’ and the expected outcome is for women and girls who experience violence and harmful practices to use available, accessible, acceptable and quality essential services including long term recovery services from violence. Effah-Chukwuma divulged that the project is kicking off in two states, Sokoto and Lagos and would start with advocacy visits in both states, mapping of service providers, project commencement workshop for stakeholders and production of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials on SGBV in both states. Others include state level GBV sensitization, capacity building for both female and male groups, setting up community support groups, development of a service provider referral list and airing radio jingles/social media videos on SGBV and support services available amongst others.

Head of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi addressed attendees present on efforts the agency is taking to fight SGBV in the state and the challenges impeding the fight. She called on everyone to be partners in progress, stop shielding and protecting abusers and be active participants in not jut words but in deed.

On the role of men and boys in eliminating violence against women, men were urged to stop paying lip service to the problem and become true allies by leading by example, becoming proper role models, challenging wrong languages and behavior, holding other men accountable, and leverage on social media to change the current narrative. They were urged to take the fight to their fellow men as statistics show that 90 percent of SGBV in Nigeria is perpetrated by men.

Managing partner, Partnership for Justice and Founder of Mirabel Centre, Itoro Eze-Anaba decried the high prevalence of violence against children in Nigeria, pointing out that children as young as three months old and women as old as 80 all experienced sexual violence according to their data. “Young children and people with disabilities are most vulnerable to abuse and 85 percent of the time, their abusers are known to them. They are usually family members, religious leaders, teachers and people that children ordinarily should feel safe with.” Eze-Anaba said the major challenges faced by survivors are the police, hospitals, legal system, social welfare, the media and civil service organisations.

“We should be very worried because the cost of child sexual abuse is very high. 30.4% women that gave been abused turn to drugs, 31.1 percent self harm, 14 percent get STDs, 5.4 percent develop depressive disorders while 19.0 percent suffer interpersonal violence compared to 16.7 percent men who self harm and 7.5 percent who suffer interpersonal violence. Most abuse stems from religious leaders who use their positions to molest young women and men.”

Attendees were implored to give prominence to people living with disabilities (PLWD) especially women as they suffer the most abuse even from their loved ones. “For women who are hearing or speech impeded and cannot communicate or mentally incapacitated, it is worse for them as the abuse can go on for years undetected until she becomes pregnant or visibly sick. Let us take into due consideration PLWD, the society is already difficult enough for them and abusers tend to see them as easy victims, assaulting and raping them, many times for years without anyone being the wiser. Stop taking them to religious homes for deliverance; they only suffer more abuse in these places. They need professional and medical help, take them where they can get it.”


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